Most people are familiar with deep tissue, hot stone, or sports massage and the therapeutic benefits they have on the mind and body. But many aren’t aware of another type of therapeutic massage that helps to release toxins in your body — manual lymphatic drainage.
Lymphatic drainage is a gentle form of massage that stimulates the lymphatic system to promote the removal of bodily toxins and waste and encourages a healthy immune system. To fully understand the benefits of lymphatic drainage, it helps to learn more about the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is an extensive drainage network that helps keep bodily fluid levels in balance and defends the body against infections. It is made up of lymphatic vessels that carry lymph — a clear, watery fluid that contains nutrients — throughout the body.
Lymph fluid flows through the lymph nodes, which act as filters trapping anything harmful that the body doesn’t need. This includes bacteria, viruses, damaged cells, or cancer cells. When bacteria or other immune threats are present in lymph, lymph nodes increase production of infection-fighting white blood cells, which can cause the nodes to swell. The human body has between 400-700 lymph nodes depending on the person.
The lymphatic system has no “pump” of its own to move lymph through the system. Rather, regular body movement and breathing function to move liquid lymph through the vessels and filters of the lymph nodes. For people who get too little exercise and eat too much processed food, the lymphatic system can easily be overtaxed and not function efficiently — leaving your body susceptible to infection and disease. By stimulating the lymph nodes through massage, it helps to clear any blockages and gives the lymphatic system a boost keeping it running healthy and strong.
Lymphatic drainage is a specialized hand technique that consists of very gentle and rhythmic movements, administered by a highly trained therapist. Each stroke slightly moves the skin in the direction of the lymphatic flow to encourage the drainage of fluid and waste.
Depending what your complaints are, the focus of a lymph massage for general immune stimulation is typically on the upper body, including the face, neck, and arms. After your lymph massage, it’s important to drink plenty of water, reduce your salt intake and avoid alcohol.
Lymphatic drainage massage can benefit just about everyone. The benefits are many and include:
- Detox: At the end of winter the body benefits from lymphatic drainage to reduce the sluggishness brought on by consuming too many starchy, high fat foods and getting too little exercise.
- Headache: Most headaches including those resulting from sinusitis have a component of congestion that responds well to lymphatic drainage. Once tissue is decongested, blocked fluid and blood flow improve, reducing pain and discomfort.
- Promote healing: After surgery or injury, tissues may be swollen and sore. Lymphatic drainage will help drain the tissues, reduce inflammation and improve healing.
- Pregnancy and after: There is often fluid retention in pregnant women and lymphatic drainage can improve comfort especially in the legs and feet.
- Reduce swelling: After long periods of immobility such as air travel, fluid tends to stagnate in the tissues making them puffy and tender. This condition responds well when fluid is reduced with lymphatic drainage.
- Reduces scar tissue: lymph drainage regenerates tissues to reduce scarring at surgical incision sites.